Monument Making

I’d like to share a few thoughts with you about your leadership and the culture of your followers. But before I do, please take a moment (a total of six minutes and a few seconds) to watch both of my videos.

Thank you in advance for doing so.

Now, let’s talk.

Culture is an expression of both history and the past. The things you choose to celebrate, to honor at a particular time of the year, to commemorate in an award or special recognition, the places that have a special meaning attached to them, and so on, these are the conscious expressions of the culture of your group, your team, your organization. This is history, the hole dug next to the path in the story I told on the video.

However, culture is also an expression of much more. Culture expresses the past, and the past is more than history. The past is everything that has happened down to this instant. That goes for your followers, too. Everything that has happened to them—both collectively and individually—feeds into their culture. The past is in you and your followers in ways you are aware of and, inevitably, in ways you’re not aware of. In either event, the past affects culture.

If you and I were actually together right now, I’d ask you if any questions came to your mind at this point.

A question comes to my mind and I’m curious if it comes to yours, too.

Do the past and history align? Do they reinforce and fit together in the our group’s culture? (Remember, you can replace group with team, department, division, or any other entity that works for you.)

My answer: not always.

And from a leadership perspective, therein lies an enormous challenge. What if our culture has a history and a past that conflict?

I ask you to consider taking the time to do two things. First, list out the actual examples of your team’s culture-as-history. Think of it over the course of a year. Parties, celebrations, honors, awards, gatherings, and consciously shared memories are just a few illustrations from which you can draw. Think too about emails, memos, or newsletters that also contain history-oriented expressions of your group’s culture. Second, and this is the trickier part, ask a few trusted followers what they think of when reflecting on the group’s past. Ask what they think others in the group might say. Add your own input here as well—what do you see when you think of your group’s past?

Let’s re-pose the question from above: does your group’s history and past support each other? And what does your honest answer suggest about how your culture affects the performance of your group?

Interesting stuff, it seems to me. Edward Winslow, Stephen Hopkins, and Squanto would all agree!

If you’d like to talk more about this, just let me know. I’m happy to do so via email (; phone (317-407-3687), or face-to-face.